April 30, 2007

"Ode to Brother Joe" by Tony McNeill (Read by Geoffrey Philp)

To commemorate receiving another photograph of Tony McNeill, I've decided to do a podcast video of "Ode to Brother Joe."

Here's the poem from my battered copy of Reel from "The Life-Movie"

Ode to Brother Joe

Nothing can soak
Brother Joe's tough sermon,
his head swollen
with certainties.

When he lights up a s'liff
you can't stop him,
and the door to God, usually shut,
gives in a rainbow gust.

Then it's time for the pipe,
which is filled with its water base
and handed to him for his blessing.
He bends over the stem,
goes into the long grace,
and the drums start

the drums start
Hail Selassie I
Jah Rastafari
and the room fills with the power
and beauty of blackness,
a furnace of optimism.

But the law thinks different.
This evening the Babylon catch
Brother Joe in his act of praise
and carry him off to the workhouse.

Who'll save Brother Joe? Hail
Selassie is far away
and couldn't care less,
and the promised ship

is a million light years
from Freeport.
But the drums in the tenement house
are sadder than usual tonight

and the brothers suck hard
at their s'liffs and pipes:
Before the night's over
Brother Joe has become a martyr;

But still in jail;
And only his woman
who appreciates his humanness more
will deny herself of the weed tonight
to hire a lawyer
and put up a true fight.

Meantime, in the musty cell,
Joe invokes, almost from habit,
the magic words:
Hail Selassie I
Jah Rastafari,
But the door is real and remains shut.

Podcast of Geoffrey Philp reading "Ode to Brother Joe" by Tony McNeill

Roy Anthony "Tony" McNeill (1941-1996) was a Jamaican poet, considered one of the most promising West Indian writers of his generation, whose career was cut short by his early death.

McNeill was born in Kingston, Jamaica and educated at Excelsior School and St. George's College (where he was already known to his friends as a poet) before leaving to study in the United States. He studied creative writing at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Massachusetts, from which he graduated with a PhD. He returned to Jamaica in 1975, where he worked as a journalist and assistant editor of the Jamaica Journal (1975-81), as well as in a variety of other jobs, including civil servant, encyclopedia salesman, and janitor.

While a student in the US, McNeill began writing seriously. His first major collection of poems, Reel from "The Life Movie", appeared in 1972 and immediately established his reputation in Jamaica alongside his contemporaries Dennis Scott and Mervyn Morris. This was followed by Credences at the Altar of Cloud (1979) and Chinese Lanterns from the Blue Child, published posthumously in 1998. Other significant work remains unpublished.

McNeill was known for his experimental style, influenced by contemporary jazz as well as American poets like Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and E. E. Cummings. He once said, of his first collection, "I don't think I could write if my first concern wasn't for the aesthetic." He also claimed that his greatest ambition was to be a jazz pianist.

He was recognised by his peers as a prodigious talent, but McNeill was plagued by alcoholism and drug abuse. In one of his later poems he wrote, "I realised very early I had no gift for conducting a life. So I shifted my focus and sang a wreath." He died while undergoing surgery at the University Hospital of the West Indies on 2 January, 1996. In an obituary essay, poet and literary scholar Mervyn Morris wrote: "We have lost one of the finest of our West Indian poets, an extreme talent, recklessly experimental, awesome in commitment to his gift."
From Wikipedia

April 28, 2007

Malachi Smith and JaBez: Breathing Fire: Poetry as Weapon

Jamaican writersDowntown Brooklyn will again sway to the hypnotic strands of reggae music and electrifying poetry as the Caribbean Cultural Theatre hosts its monthly after-work jam session. Dubbed as "everything Caribbean and anything cultural," this month’s program salutes National Poetry Month, and takes place at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street on Wednesday, May 2 at 7pm.

Featuring two of the leading proponents of “dub poetry," Malachi and JaBez, Evening Time - Breathing Fire: Poetry as Weapon examines Caribbean poetry as a tool for social activism and change. Similar to America’s spoken word movement, “dub poetry," is written in native Jamaican language and is performed over the pulsating drum and bass sounds of Reggae. This program follows in the wake of the last Fall’s stellar session with Grammy Award nominee, Linton Kwesi Johnson. The event will be moderated by the head of the Caribbean Research Center at Medgar Evers College, Dr. George Irish.

Malachi is an award-winning poet, critically acclaimed musician, and filmmaker who hails from the parish of Westmoreland in western Jamaica. A fellow at the Michener Caribbean Writers Institute at the University of Miami, he studied at the Jamaica School of Drama and the Florida International University. Beginning with “Kimbo to Kimbo” in 1979, his recorded work has included the singles “I’m A Victim," “Carl Stone,” and “Drop It”. His “Free the Kids” was released in 1995 by his own recording company, 4-M Label, along with “Tribute” and “Liad Mout” (1997), and “Miss My Jamaican” (1998). His critically acclaimed album Throw 2 Punch has dominated the reggae charts in the USA and Europe. Malachi’s latest album is Middle Passage. His newly released documentary, DUB POETRY: the life & work of Malachi Smith, chronicles his career and provides an exposĂ© into this uniquely Jamaican melding of spoken word and reggae music.

JaBez, a New York City based Jamaican artist and writer, represents a new generation of dub poets. His fresh brand of performance poetry is infused with reggae, ska, jazz, R&B and folk music. A recent headliner at the BAM Café series in downtown Brooklyn, his electric performance has captivated audiences throughout the United States and the Caribbean. His critically acclaimed poetry has been printed in such publications as A Rastafari View of Marcus Garvey by I. Jabulani Tafari, Reggae Roots and Kulcha, and Caribbean Voice.

The Caribbean Cultural Theatre is a Brooklyn, NY based performing arts company dedicated to using the arts as a tool for preserving artistic legacies and inspiring audiences, while being sensitive to the linguistic, social, political, and economic influences that give rise to Caribbean cultural traditions. Additional information can be viewed online at caribbeantheatre.org.

Held in the Downtown section of Brooklyn, the monthly theme-based sessions offer a potpourri of poetry, film, music, performance art, book signings, panel discussions and open mic sessions, and afford audiences opportunities to meet established and emerging Caribbean and Caribbean-American artists. And every program ends with the audience taking center stage in an open mic sessions!

Previous Evening Time programs have featured photojournalist Anthony Bonair, novelist and cultural scholar, Dr. Kamau Brathwaite, dub poet and playwrights Glenville Lovell and Trevor Rhone, Pan musical arranger, Arddin Herbert, and reggae musician, Shelly Thunder.

Via caribbeantheatre.org.

Evening Time - Breathing Fire: Poetry As Weapon

Wednesday, May 2, 2007 @ 7pm

Caribbean Cultural Theatre

138 So Oxford Street, Suite 4A

Brooklyn, NY 11217-1695

Information/Reservations: 718-783-8345


A New Blog in Town: Seawoman's Writing Opps

When I started this blog in December 2005, I barely knew what a blog was, so I called it the only thing that seemed logical, Geoffrey Philp's Blog Spot. Since then, the blog has grown and remained true to its mission: To promote my work and the work of South Florida and Caribbean writers.

You see, I've never seen either my writing or this blog as being just about me. If the light shines on me, then I've always felt that the light should be shared. This has been the result of a many factors, including Rastafari and the cultural inhibition among many Jamaicans to keep things quiet. There's a great Tony Winkler story about this inhibition and I can't remember the name nor can I find the book, The Annihilation of Fish. I think I may have given it away. BTW, if you are looking for a great Caribbean writer (modesty prevents me from naming others) check out Tony Winkler's work. You will not be disappointed.

But I digress. There's a great new blog in town published by Sandra Sealy, and it's called Seawoman's Writing Opps.

Sandra is doing full-time what I have done intermittently--providing news about publication opportunities for Caribbean writers. Many of my readers have assumed that because I have published about seven books and that I've been in a few anthologies that I must know a lot about publishing and publishing opportunities. I've had to confess many times that I know very little about the business side and I've only worked with one agent, Janell Agyeman of Marie Brown Associates, for the past fifteen years.

So I'm really happy about Seawoman's Writing Opps. Sandra has a great site with links to publishers and literary and cultural festivals and a whole lot more. If you are interested in Caribbean writing, go over to her site and check her out.

April 27, 2007

"Mass Man" by Derek Walcott: An Appreciation

Derek WalcottOne of the most daunting challenges for a Caribbean writer is the creation of authentic patterns of language which are grounded in the experience and lives of his culture. For the elder poets such as Walcott, Brathwaite, Guillen, and Carter, the demeaning language of colonialism which changed people into property, and which, by its etymology did not contain the horrors of slavery and the Middle Passage, had to be transformed. A new alphabet forged in the rhythms of the Caribbean landscape and life (spring and the blossoming of trumpet trees, summer and the threat of hurricanes, harvest with the smell of burning cane fields, and the dry season with poinsettias and Junkanoo) had to be created. This "nation language" had to be as protean as the Calypsos of Carnival, which provided models from which many of the writers drew their inspiration. And yet these models were insufficient because Calypsos, as a part of popular culture, did not lend themselves to the exploration of the immediate and the historical and the possibilities that this combination engenders--a trait that is common to most successful poems.

Another problem that these poets faced from the lack of viable poetic models, which unlike poets such as Eliot and Pound, who saw themselves as "inheritors" of the Western canon, was an aesthetic which honored the past and acknowledged the local landscape. So, they had to create a Caribbean aesthetic. This self-consciousness also created its own dynamic. Many poets, who used the local to explore larger emblematic themes, were aware that with the history of colonialism, the very subjects they sought to elevate through poetic discourse were denigrated by the official culture. This is the dilemma that Walcott confronts in "Mass Man," where he uses the spectacle of Carnival to explore the role of the artist, who is a part of a celebration--a Creole invention that similar to his own creative process and to which he feels a certain affinity--within a culture which does not value reflection, yet which gives its participants a certain amount of dignity. This ambiguity is reflected in the diction that ranges from mock Elizabethan to Trinidadian Creole, the imagery of exotic non-Caribbean "lions" to indigenous fruit bats, and the use of Christian ritual as a metaphor for uniting these seemingly disparate elements of Caribbean life into a coherent vision.

Mass Man

Through a great lion's head clouded by mange

a black clerk growls.

Next, a gold wired peacock withholds a man,

a fan, flaunting its ovalled jeweled eyes;

What metaphors!

What coruscating, mincing fantasies!

The point of view of the speaker is almost that of an outsider who is so seemingly detached from Carnival that he appears to be mocking the spectacle that transforms a "black clerk" into a lion, albeit "clouded by mange" and resorts to language that undercuts any sense of grandeur. Yet by the use of hyperbole, "What metaphors!" the speaker demonstrates his unease. The contrast between the extended vowels in "clouded," "growls," "gold" and "withholds" which imply awe rather than contempt, and the dismissive, sharp sounds of "What coruscating, mincing fantasies!" are indicative of the speaker's discomfort rather than the inherent inferiority of the subjects which by their very nature suggest transport.

Hector Mannix, water works clerk, San Juan, has entered a lion.

Boysie, two golden mangoes, bobbing for breastplates, barges

like Cleopatra down her river, making style.

"Join us," they shout, "O God, child, you can't dance?"

But somewhere in that whirlwind's radiance

a child, rigged like a bat, collapses, sobbing.

In the second stanza, the revelation of the names of the revelers, "Hector Mannix" and "Boysie" reveals the level of intimacy and perhaps the cause of the speaker's unease. He knows Hector Mannix is not a lion and that Boysie with "two golden mangoes, bobbing for breastplates" is not Cleopatra, yet they are "making style" which means "showing off'" and also the raison d'etre of Carnival --to create a Creole culture and language without the constraints of colonialism. With the disclosure, "Join us," they shout." the speaker's cover is blown. "Hector Mannix" or "Boysie" knows the speaker who is distancing himself from the parade, and in trying to discern his reasons for not joining, they conclude, "O God, child, you can't dance?"

The speaker's reluctance is caused by his awareness of a "child, rigged like a bat," with whom the speaker feels an intimate connection, and whose existence is unknown to revelers because they are caught up in the celebration.

But I am dancing, look, from an old gibbet

my bull-whipped body swings, a metronome!

Like a fruit-bat dropped in the silk-cotton's shade,

my mania, my mania is a terrible calm.

Within the poet's memory, the suffering child becomes a metaphor for suffering of which the revelers are unaware and the horrors of slavery which he remembers, "But I am dancing, look, from an old gibbet/ my bull-whipped body swings, a metronome!" The speaker claims an identity with the revelers, the sobbing child, and the hanged slave and this produces a "mania" which is "a terrible calm."

Upon your penitential morning,

some skull must rub its memory with ashes,

some mind must squat down howling in your dust,

some hand must crawl and recollect your rubbish,

someone must write your poems.

The diction has clearly changed from the first stanza for the speaker is fully aware of the implications of the event. For even while the revelers are celebrating the last day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, "the penitential morning," will follow. This penitential morning also extends to penultimate morning of "dust to dust" and "ashes to ashes" of mourning and "howling" which the poet in the midst of life is recollecting. The poet serves as a witness to the present, a link to the past and prescient voice of the future.

The creation of a poem, especially by a writer who shows a high level of metacognition such as Derek Walcott, always carries with it a sense of absurdity because of the artifice, intimacy and distortion of metaphor. In the morning, "Hector Mannix" will become another faceless, "water works clerk," but for a brief moment in the Carnival, he was a "lion" and "Boysie" was Cleopatra. The language and the mask elevated and distorted their identities. But what is a true identity when that identity is in the process of being created? To an outsider, it may seem to be a parade of "coruscating, mincing fantasies" and to the participants it is a moment of "making style." For the poet, however, it is a time to experience meaning in the rituals of a culture and to discern the patterns that emerging out of the matrix of the past, present and future.

Podcast of Geoffrey Philp reading "Mass Man" by Derek Walcott

Related Posts:
Derek Walcott

April 26, 2007

Forthcoming Titles from Peepal Tree Press

Peepal Tree
"I Love The River’s Song! It was so hard to put it down! Gloria’s coming-of-age story is warm and true and bittersweet. Hers is no wide bridge over the river but a rocky path to womanhood, to friendships made and lost and to the knowledge that love also requires navigation. The River’s Song is a song we’ve all heard before, but never with such force and clarity as this."~Olive Senior

You know you're in for something special...

The River's Song a novel by Jacqueline Bishop

Gloria, living with her mother in a Kingston tenement yard, wins a scholarship to one of Jamaica’s best girls’ schools. She is the engaging narrator of the at first alienating and then transforming experiences of an education that in time takes her away from her mother, friends and the island; of her consciousness of bodily change and sexual awakening; of her growth of adult awareness of a Jamaica of class division, endemic violence and the new spectre of HIV-AIDS.

The novel’s strengths lie in the pace, economy and shapeliness of its page-turning narrative; in its poetic descriptions of urban and rural Jamaica; and above all in the quality of its characterisation and the dramatisation of Gloria’s relationships with her mother, grandmother and the girls she has always known in her grandmother’s rural village, with Rachel, their neighbour in the yard who is Gloria’s rock of understanding, and, at the heart of the novel, with Annie, the purest and indivisible love of her adolescent years.

The book will be available in early May, so for now please enjoy this extract.

Click here for the extract: Gloria's first day at High School

Also Coming Soon from Peepal Tree Press

Jennifer Rahim
Songster and Other Stories
ISBN: 1-84523-048-5, Price: £7.99
Rahim’s stories move between the present and the past to make sense of the tensions between image and reality in contemporary Trinidad.

Lynne Macedo & Kampta Karran
No Land, No Mother
ISBN: 1-84523-020-5, Price: £12.99
The essays in this collection focus on the rich dialogue carried out in David Dabydeen’s increasingly diverse and critically acclaimed body of writing.

Laurence A. Breiner
Black Yeats: Eric Roach and the Politics of Caribbean Poetry
ISBN: 1-84523-047-7, Price: £17.99
Laurnce Breiner's study not only provides the materials for an enhanced reading of Roach's poetry and a persuasive argument for its importance, but also shows Roach's life and work to have been at the centre of the cultural politics of Caribbean writing.

Karen King-Aribisala
The Hangman's Game
ISBN: 1-84523-046-9, Price: £8.99
A slave rebellion in nineteenth century Guyana and a military dictatorship in recent Nigeria intercut and merge in unsettling ways as the characters in the historical novel-within-a novel erupt into their Caribbean author's life in Nigeria.

Peepal Tree Press
17 King's Avenue
Leeds, West Yorks LS6 1QS

Phone: +44 (0) 113 2451703




NBPC seeks contemporary films on the African American and African Diaspora experience for the National PBS Schedule. We can be a resource to help turn a bright idea or life-long dream into a successful film/video project.

Through Open Call, producers can seek the funds they need to begin or complete their projects.

Applications for RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT, PRODUCTION, and POST-PRODUCTION are now being accepted.

Awards range from 1,000 to 80,000 dollars.

From short form narrative to 4-part series, NBPC supports television programs that reflect a variety of subjects and production styles. We encourage submissions of projects that are unlikely to appear on the Hollywood screen, but which generally offer a more realistic, historically accurate, diverse, and non-stereotypical picture of the Black World.

Deadline: June 1st, 2007


Or call: Programming Department @ 212-234-8200, ext. 228

Via Kamalu: This is e-drum, a listserv providing information of interests to black writers and diverse supporters worldwide.

e-drum is moderated by kalamu ya salaam (kalamu@aol.com).

To subscribe to e-drum send a blank email to: e-drum-subscribe@topica.com


April 25, 2007

In My Own Words: Vicki Hendricks

Miami writer Vicki HendricksMy new novel Cruel Poetry was a nice change for me to write. Not that I’ve given up my usual subject matter—sex, murder, and obsession are still my favorites. But this book has three narrators, as opposed to my other novels, each having a first person narrator. This time, instead of a closed relationship inside the mind of one character for three hundred pages, I could shift back and forth, and it was almost enjoyable, in the limited sense that writing can be fun. One of my narrators is a man, a desperate university professor and poet who has become obsessed with a free-lance prostitute. I’ve used male narrators before in short stories, but this was my first chance to unravel a male personality over the length of a novel—he’s somewhat unbalanced, as you might guess.

I also created a rule for myself not to allow any time to overlap. Each chapter starts with the new time, place, and the character’s name who is narrating, so that things move swiftly forward, but without confusion. These chapter headings are anchors to reality as opposed to the slight hallucinogenic tone of the story, something slightly off from realism, but not enough to categorize separately. To me the category of noir carries a dreamy feeling, but I’ve never heard anyone else say so. Most of my novels and short stories are on that real/unreal edge, but Cruel Poetry carries the feeling a little further. I wrote the entire to Carlos Santana’s Supernatural CD, repeated over and over, to keep the mood. My hope is that readers will fall into the trance of the story and find pleasure there.

Vicki Hendricks is the author of noir novels Miami Purity, Iguana Love, Voluntary Madness, and Sky Blues, as well as many published short stories. Cruel Poetry is her darkest novel yet, entwining sex, drugs, obsession, and murder on Miami Beach. She lives in Hollywood, Florida, and teaches writing at Broward Community College.


Vicki Hendricks


April 24, 2007

Spirit Finds Form at Art Exhibit

Gene TinnieThree African-American artists will explore the theme of ''Sacred Presence'' in visual art in a two-weekend showing of different, yet related, works at Deluxe Arts, 2051 NW Second Ave., April 14-28.

Robert Peppers, an associate professor of Art at Ohio University, will bring his evocative Hush Harbor series of large, free-standing crosses, while Miami-based artists Dinizulu Gene Tinnie and Roland Woods Jr. will present Spirits of Amerik and Living Water, respectively.

Tinnie's work comprises a small, eclectic group of paintings, drawings and sculpture suggesting universal spirituality. Woods offers an extensive collection of striking black-and-white drawings and prints with inspirational and historic themes.

Peppers' Hush Harbor crosses have a haunting spiritual origin of their own. The crosses are painted and contain other materials such as soot, paint chips and broken glass. They were inspired by a journey Peppers made to South Carolina to help restore one of the black churches that had been nearly destroyed by fire in a wave of church burnings in 1996.

The very emotional experience, which led to Peppers' gathering of burnt wood and other materials to use in his art, was also uplifting, as it confirmed the resilience and strength of the faith of the people.

A second incident -- surviving what could have have been a fatal car accident -- was another kind of reawakening of Peppers' faith.

Exploring modern everyday reality and the social conditions that prevail in the world today. He often focuses on the consequences of the Middle Passage of the Atlantic slave trade, the uprooting of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and other similar acts -- but also on the positive contributions of the human spirit.

The title of Tinnie's exhibition, Spirits of Amerik, suggests that more than just physical bodies and physical force are involved in the making of who one is, the wide diversity of sources and ''Spirits'' that have been part of the process and the fact that America is still an unfinished work-in-progress.

Woods' exhibition, Living Water, represents something of a grand return to the art scene for the art teacher who has an iconic place in South Florida's history as the father of the black visual art movement and founder of the Miami Black Arts Workshop in Coconut Grove, which had become something of a local legend during its existence from 1969 to 1985.

Though he has had impressive formal training and boasts degrees in the fine arts, Woods did not lose contact with his roots and he set out to redefine the role of art by bringing it closer to the community in which he lived and worked. In the process, he also developed a powerful body of works that were inspired by his deep Christian faith.

After a long absence from showing his works, due to the demands of teaching, Woods is making a return with old and new works, seasoned by insights gained over the intervening years.

Sacred Presence is part of the ''Sacred Presence: Religion and Spirituality in African World Literature, Orature and Arts'' series taking place at various venues Thursday through April 22. A formal opening is set for 6 p.m. April 18 headlined by Amiri Baraka and is free and open to the public. The gallery is open on weekends and by appointment.

Miami Herald Staff Report


Saturday, April 28, 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.

Robert Peppers’ Hush Harbor exhibit ends its two-week run at Deluxe Arts Gallery, 2051 N.W. 2nd Avenue in Wynwood.

This Must-See Exhibit, Hush Harbor, leaves town this weekend!

Hush Harbor was brought to Miami by the City of Miami to honor the 70th Anniversary Celebration of the College Language Association held here in Miami, April 18 -22. The College Language Association is an organization with global membership that was started seventy years ago by Black scholars in America excluded from joining the Modern Language Association. The organization’s conference theme was Religion and Spirituality in Literature. The exhibit is presented with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners.

Hush harbors or bresh harbors were secret places of worship for enslaved persons forbidden to practice their own religion. Hidden in the forest, enslaved Africans congregated in the “bresh” (brush or woods) to practice their faith.

Peppers’ “Hush Harbor” is comprised of twelve 6 ft. high crosses and a pulpit that have a haunting spiritual origin of their own, rooted in history and in personal experience. The crosses are large paintings, containing various other materials, including soot, paint chips and broken glass. They were inspired by a journey which Professor Peppers made to South Carolina to help restore one of the Black churches that had been nearly destroyed by fire in the wave of church burnings which swept across the South in 1996.

That very emotional experience, which led to his gathering of burnt wood and other materials to use in his art, was also uplifting, as it confirmed the resilience and strength of people’s faith. The Hush Harbor series, also benefits from Peppers’ extensive talent, training and experience in art making, especially with a meaningful message for social change.

Peppers’ exhibit is part of the Sacred Presence series which also includes local artists Roland Woods and Dinizulu Gene Tinnie.

For more information, call Wallis Tinnie

(305) 250-5307 – Office



April 23, 2007

On the Shoulders of Giants: Joan Cartwright @ Sistrunk

Joan Cartwright"If I have seen further [than certain other men] it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants*." Instead of using the word "men," use the word "person" and you will have the breadth of historical vision that Joan Cartwright brings to her craft. Change that to "women" and you will have the sense of empowerment that permeates Joan's work. Add passionate and you may have an idea of her lecture/performance at the African-American Research Library on Thursday, April 19, 2007 at the African-American Research Library.

Joan Cartwright is unlike any other jazz singer you will ever meet. Sultry, seductive, and provocative (and the show hadn't even started), her one-woman show, if it can be called that--she invited members of the community such as singer Jus' Cynthia to sing Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child" and artist Charles Mills to scat with her. Joan's presentation combines history, gossip, and great music.

And although the lecture performance, "Women in Jazz" has been captured in film and sound recordings, they simply do not do justice to the full immersion of the senses and memory as Joan traces the origins of African-American music from the Africa continent to the Americas through singing and narrative and shows her intimate connection with singers such as Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, and Nina Simone.

Joan Cartwright has toured five continents and 15 countries including the U.S.A., eight European countries, Brazil, Mexico, Ghana, Gambia, South Africa, China and Japan, with her swinging brand of jazz and blues. She holds a B.A. in Communications and Music from LaSalle University, (Philadelphia) and a Master’s in Communications from Florida Atlantic University. Joan studied piano, composition and theory with pianist Gerald Price, and harp with Caliope Proios. She also studied ballet and modern dance with Bernice Johnson and Lavern Porter, and African dance with Dinizulu. She's performed on television, radio and on stage at the Blue Note (NYC), The "A" Train and Erny’s (Delray Beach), O’Hara’s, Promenade and Riverwalk Sunday Jazz Brunch (Fort Lauderdale). She's performed at Ellington's (Sanibel Island, FL) and JAZID (Miami Beach) in the U.S., and in eight European countries. She is the recipient of $15,000 in SEAS Grant (1997-00) for her presentation of Women In Jazz at elementary schools in Broward County, Florida, to over 5,000 children and college students. She is a composer and her book, In Pursuit of a Melody, contains 40 songs and lyrics to standard songs: "A Night in Tunisia" by Dizzy Gillespie, "Blue Bossa" by Kenny Dorham, "Tune Up" by Miles Davis and "Bessie's Blues" by John Coltrane.

For more photos of Joan's performance, please follow this link: Joan Cartwright@ Sistrunk 1.

Joan's pictures of Amiri Baraka's reading: Amiri Baraka @ Sistrunk and Amiri Baraka@ Sistrunk 2.

To purchase copies of Joan's latest book, please follow this link: In Pursuit of a Melody.

Joan's post is #300 on this blog. Break out the champagne!

April 22, 2007

Sir Vidia Returns to Trinidad

VS NaipaulGeorgia Popplewell of Caribbean Free Radio has a review and pictures of Sir Vidia's reading in Trinidad. Here's an excerpt:

Left to his own devices, with a proper microphone and nobody asking him annoying questions (and only Lady Naipaul interrupting every so often to refill his water glass, which had to be placed just so on the table), Sir Vidia was fine. He read excerpts from Half A Life, the “His Chosen Calling” chapter of Miguel Street and a passage from Among the Believers about Malaysia (”a country,” according to Sir Vidia, “dedicated to fundamentalism”).
Why not head over to Caribbean Free Radio and leave a comment?

April 21, 2007

A Winter Tale Wins Award for Outstanding Canadian Feature

A Winter Tale

Frances-Anne Solomon’s A Winter Tale took home the Tonya Lee Williams Award for Outstanding Canadian Feature at the Seventh Annual ReelWorld Film Festival's (RWFF) Closing Night Gala on Sunday April 15, 2007. The film also won Special Mention in the Outstanding Screenplay category at the packed awards ceremony.

Since making its world premiere as the Opening Night film on April 11th, A Winter Tale has been praised by the media and audiences alike, - with influential personalities referring to the film as "excellent," "very compelling" and “exactly what Toronto needs.”

Caribbean film icon Leonie Forbes, who portrays the lead female character, Miss G, was also recognized by the festival. Forbes, who is known as Jamaica’s First Lady of Theatre and Film, was honoured at RWFF’s Brunch with Brilliance. This upscale event is held annually to honour a film artist of diversity who has achieved success in the Canadian film industry, despite all challenges. In addition to this great acknowledgment, Leonie Forbes also took home the festival’s prestigious Award of Excellence.

Written, directed and produced by Frances-Anne Solomon, A Winter Tale tells the emotional story of a black men's support group that forms at a Caribbean Takeaway restaurant in Parkdale, after a ten-year-old boy is shot by a stray bullet. The film features a talented ensemble cast led by Canadian stars Peter Williams and Michael Miller, along with Caribbean stars Leonie Forbes and Denis “Sprangalang” Hall. A Winter Tale offers a brilliant perspective on the timely issues of gun violence in Toronto, set against the backdrop of a multicultural community’s unrealized hopes and dreams.

Frances-Anne Solomon is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and producer whose credits include Lord Have Mercy! (VisionTV, 2003), Peggy Su! (BBC Films, 1997), My Mother Told Me (Channel 4, 1995) and Bideshi (British Film Institute, 1994). She is the president and artistic director of the two companies she founded: Leda Serene Films, her film/tv production vehicle, and CaribbeanTales, a prolific not-for-profit company producing educational multimedia projects. She also worked as a film and television drama producer for the BBC.

Recent projects include A Winter Tale, a feature film for Telefilm Canada and CHUM Television; Literature Alive, a groundbreaking 20-part documentary series that screened on Bravo!, Canadian Learning Television and OMNI, that showcased Caribbean-Canadian authors; and the Gemini-nominated Lord Have Mercy!, Canada's landmark multicultural sitcom, for Vision TV, Toronto 1, APTN and Showcase.

For more information, please visit: www.awintertale.ca

For media inquires, please contact:
Pennant Media Group
Kevin Pennant
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April 20, 2007

Amiri Baraka @ the Pan-African BookFest

African-American writer Amiri Baraka"I'm still an advocate of Black Power," the old revolutionary growled into the microphone as he continued his relentless challenge to Africans in the New World to embrace Pan-Africanism as a source of unity and democracy. Amiri Baraka's lecture on Tuesday, April 17 at the African-American Research Library, peppered with references to Frederick Douglass, WE Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, traced the origins of African-American memory in the Americas, and from that history he made indictments of the "volunteer" army in Iraq, Federal Reserve, Electoral Colleges, and the bicameral Congress. Throughout his speech, he called for a creation of a national party that would represent the real interests of African-Americans, and dismissed many of the current leaders, with the exception of Barack Obama, as "Negroes who had become gatekeepers."

Baraka's plea for the creation of a national newspaper and the creation of cultural organizations that would be supported by African-Americans in the twenty-seven states where they hold a majority of votes, the sixteenth largest economic bloc in the world, was greeted with thunderous applause. The need, he explained, was to offer resistance to the "commercial imperialism" that has undermined culture and democracy. "We're the conscience of America--always have been--because we're on the bottom," he explained. He then urged the audience to wake up to its own power that if used properly could oust popular figures in American culture such as Don Imus. "We have to do this for ourselves," he concluded, "because nobody is going to do if for us."

For more photos of the event, follow this link: Amiri Baraka @ Sistrunk

April 18, 2007

Five Questions With Sam Grant

African-American writer Sam GrantSam Grant, currently a professor of Graphic, Illustration and Web Design, sharpened his drawing skills by creating "storyboards" for directors to shoot videos and commercials. To keep his skills fast and fresh, Sam would give himself "projects" like this one, to maintain his edge. Twenty years later, The Opposite Sex resurfaces, and rekindles Sam’s desire to pursue his passion.

When not at the drawing board, Sam spends most of his free time at home with his wife and daughter. Two older sons are grown and out on their own, but always come home for the holidays. Sam is currently giving back some of his design knowledge as a college instructor, but still finds time to work on his personal drawings. The creative spark that lit itself in him at age two, still burns as bright as ever. For more information, visit www.samgrant.com

1. Why did you choose to create a graphic novel rather than a “traditional” novel?

The choice was never really an issue. I was a storyboard artist back in the late 80’s, and drawing books in graphic novel format was good practice. That style used the same principles of flow and design that cinematographers use to set up scenes in movies. I wrote approximately 6 graphic novels during that decade. The Opposite Sex was the largest and most ambitious of the group.

2. Without giving away too much of the plot or climax, what’s The Opposite Sex about?

The story centers on high school student Michael Chandler, a former little league superstar, who suddenly stopped playing baseball about 4 years ago and took a profound interest in the sciences. However, that irrational decision has come back to haunt him, as he, along with family and friends discover that life has a funny way of working itself out. Suddenly, an accident in the high school chemistry lab created a whole new set of challenges for him and the people around him. After these events are set in motion, no one at Westside High will ever be the same.

3. What were some of the challenges in creating the novel and how did you overcome them?

Putting the story together is tough. When you’ve got an idea, that’s just a good beginning. Constructing an experience around that idea is real challenge. I used the same principles on my short stories as I did on the elaborate ones. I started with a simple outline, peppered with a series of plot twists. Once I got the story rolling, I let it tell itself. I would write as I drew. This isn’t always productive, but it sometimes leads to sparks of wisdom. I eventually discovered the best method was to write a complete draft outline, and flesh it out in the writing process. This technique gave me the freedom to write as much as I wanted, and still stay on point.

4. What is the special appeal of graphic novels and do you think the appeal is limited to a certain demographic?

Graphic novels have gotten a bum rap in America, because of our fascination with the superhero genre. Many people think that graphic novels are merely thick comic books written for children under the age of 15. This stigma has no bearing in other countries around the world. In places like France, Spain, and Japan, illustrators of graphic novels enjoy the same notoriety as literary authors in America. This scenario has gradually been changing over the years, but most people don’t notice the impact. For example, Americans see the superhero comic book transition to film in obvious examples such as Spiderman and X-Men. What they may not know is that movies such as Road to Perdition, A History of Violence and V for Vendetta were all based on graphic novels. Sin City was literally snatched from a graphic novel series. Eventually, this will be a legitimate practice among producers in Hollywood. So just like reading a paperback version of a classic film, if you really want to get the full impact of one of these new movies, find the graphic novel it was based on, and enjoy the ride.

5. How do you balance your work at Miami Dade College and the demands of your art?

The hardest thing is the time commitment. If you have a good story and clear method of telling it, you need a serious schedule. Teaching requires a commitment to a series of repetitive tasks like lecturing, planning, grading and testing. The best advice I’ve gotten from a fellow writer was to pick the time of day when you’re the most creative, and work during that period exclusively. When that time ends, stop working until the next night. I don’t take work home anymore, because I’ve found a way to maximize my office hours at work. I make the best of my schedule by getting most of my schoolwork done during the time I’m on campus. It’s not easy, but if you stick to it for about 3 weeks in a row, it’ll become a permanent habit.

(Optional) What makes you laugh?

I’m old school. I like jokes from comedians like Bill Cosby. I also admire two classic comics, the late Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor. These guys weren’t just comedians, they were storytellers. I like well-written jokes that develop gradually. My favorite joke of all time is “Who’s on First?” by Abbott & Costello. Lately, I’m into classic radio shows from the 1940s. I think making somebody feel like they saw something on radio, was pretty incredible. I’m eating this stuff up nowadays. It’s like I just dug up a chest of buried treasure.



April 17, 2007

Elegy for Virginia Tech

What happened at Virginia Tech. goes beyond what the mind can fathom, the heart can bear, the soul can possess, and I turn to the only poet who consoles in a time like this:

For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

Rest in Peace, my brothers and sisters.


April 16, 2007

"Colonial Girls School" by Olive Senior: An Appreciation

In Frances-Anne's post, she wrote, "Creation is a form of Terror, particularly when you come from a colonial context and background in which Empire (read: a sense of inferiority) was imposed through education, language, culture, as much if not more than through the barrel of a gun." This insult to our minds, hearts, and bodies is one of the themes of Olive Senior's, "Colonial Girls School," and the erasure of sense and sensibility by suppression of the natural, denial of the native, and the implied superiority of "northern eyes" is masterfully woven through the text with use of the prefix-de. The poem's iconoclastic language relies on the metaphor of "images" that are shattered at the end of the poem, "How the mirror broke," and the word play on "pale."

Colonial Girls School
For Marlene Smith MacLeish

Borrowed images
willed our skins pale
our laughter
lowered our voices
let out our hems
kinked our hair
denied our sex in gym tunics and bloomers
harnessed our voices to madrigals
and genteel airs
yoked our minds to declensions in Latin
and the language of Shakespeare

Told us nothing about our selves
There was nothing at all

Throughout the first stanza and the refrain, the speaker uses the language of servitude and slavery with the words, "muffled," "lowered," and "harnessed." The girls' bodies "our skin, " and minds have been "yoked" to a system that is foreign to their way of being.

How those pale northern eyes and
aristocratic whispers once erased us
How our loudness, our laughter
debased us.
There was nothing left of ourselves
Nothing about us at all

The speaker continues to show the effects of the "pale northern eyes" on the girls and the subsequent reduction of self-esteem.

Studying: History: Ancient and Modern
Kings and Queens of England
Steppes of Russia
Wheatfields of Canada

There was nothing of our landscape there
Nothing about us at all

The next stanza is a turning point in the poem after the catalogue of injustices wrought by colonialism that resulted in the speaker's inability to "see" herself history, the landscape and literature, or even to appreciate herself because "There was nothing at all." Racism and patriarchal colonialism result in a kind of invisibility that was fully explored in Ralph Ellison's, Invisible Man.

Marcus Garvey turned twice in his grave.
'Thirty- eight was a beacon. A flame.
They were talking of desegregation
In Little Rock, Arkansas, Lumumba
and the Congo. To us mumbo-jumbo.
We had read Vachel Lindsay's
vision of the jungle.

Feeling nothing about ourselves
There was nothing about us at all

Months, years, a childhood memorising
Latin declensions
(For our language
--'bad talking'--

Finding nothing about us there
Nothing about us at all

So, friend of my childhood years
One day we'll talk about
How the mirror broke
Who kissed us awake
Who let Anansi from his bag

For isn't it strange how
northern eyes
in the brighter world before us now


With the introduction of Marcus Garvey and the Trickster, Anancy (Eshu) there is a reversal of the former condition. Senior masterfully demonstrates the transformation with a change of meaning of the word "pale." The "pale" northern eyes" that once denigrated the speaker's humanity have now become "pale" in significance.

"Colonial Girls School" is one of Olive Senior's best known poems and a study of her short stories and poems reveals a writer who has been grappling with the "decolonization of the mind."

Olive Senior was born in 1941 to peasant farmers in Trelawny, Jamaica, the seventh of ten children, and later migrated to Canada. She is the author of several collections of short stories: Summer Lighting (1986), Arrival of the Snake-Women (1989), and Discerner of Hearts (1995); collections of poetry Talking of Trees (1986), Gardening in the Tropics (1994), and Over the roofs of the world (2005); and non-fiction about Caribbean culture: A-Z of Jamaican Heritage (1984) – greatly expanded and republished in 2004 as The Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage – and Working Miracles: Women’s Life in the English Speaking Caribbean (1991).


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